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Black Eyed Dog

23. A Winter Haunting – Dan Simmons

Return of Duane! Yay! Well, not really, but Duane’s notebooks and Duane’s house and Duane’s intelligence are all at work in A Winter Haunting. Thankfully. Duane ruled.

You really can’t stop those Elm Haven supernatural occurrences. They’re the can’t stop, won’t stop of middle of nowhere, Illinois. I enjoyed this one, not as much as Summer of Night, but, it’s worth reading just for the connections to Summer of Night and the Duane-ness. It’s a psychological horror story about returning to your hometown after screwing up your whole life, isolation, and Egyptology.

Some people, not unlike my Finny-pig, just settle into a fleece blankie and cuddle away the winter in a non-haunted place. It’s a choice

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This is dedicated: “To lovers of all ages, especially young ones” Ewwww.

28. Morals and Microbes – Theodor Rosebury

I found this book on the blog Awful Library Books , which is excellent and basically sums up the main reason why I enjoy working in libraries – you find the weirdest books. It’s mind-boggling looking through what’s been published and purchased by libraries and Awful Library Books really has some solid highlights. It’s also where I found out the Satanic Panic children’s book Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy   existed. #blessed

Morals and Microbes is just as “surprisingly readable” as Awful Library Books indicated it was. It’s from 1971, so a few things have happened since it was published, a few scientific things and some attitudes towards different kinds of people…but I learned a lot that I wasn’t already aware of about syphilis (Yay!) and gonorrhea and I had a good time doing it. Especially when I was reading the chapter called “Shakespeare and VD” on a plane and the person in the seat next to me noticeably tried to inch away – Thanks, Morals and Microbes! He smelled like cologne, which bothers me to no end, so, I’m happy just reading about VD made him want to flee from me.

Syphilis is basically the best venereal disease, or maybe just the most impressive. It’s an insidious plague that’s been around for a very, very long time. Apparently the lepers of the Bible probably really had syphilis as it has symptoms (the collapse of the nasal bridge known as “saddle nose,” what a phrase) that seem like leprosy but leprosy is less contagious than syphilis. Tons of cool artsy people had it, but I knew that, tons of not-cool artsy people also had it. In chapter four, “Syphilis or the French Disease,” Rosebury goes through a long list of Europeans blaming other people for syphilis. Columbus, of course, blamed Native Americans, one more reason why he’s a jerk. He brought it with him… Everybody knows it. The Italians blamed the French (“The French Disease”), the French blamed the Italians right back (“Mal de Naples”), the Germans also blamed the French (“French pox”), the English also blamed the French – no surprise there-, the Portuguese blamed the Dutch, the Persians turned around and blamed the Portuguese, the Polish people blamed the Turks, and Russians called it “The Disease of the Germans,” bringing the seriously weird line back to Europe. Nice.

And while I really like reading about diseases in a not-so-clinical volume such as this, the word “chancre” was used so many times that it started to gross me out. As did the mention of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster, dying of “putrefaction of the genitals” attributed to “carnal copulation.” That mental image left a mark.

A fun note written in the library’s copy on page 166 – “If Man’s law could control the sexual habits of man – it is quite doubtful man would prevail.” Man dies out, Finny inherits the earth.

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“We had the best time at your party”

22. Scare Care – Graham Masterton, ed.

Graham Masterton, master of the vulgar description, is responsible for this short story collection. He established the “Scare Care Trust, a charity set up to fund organizations that help abused and endangered children” get access to vulgar descriptions. Not really. It’s a nice thing from the 1980s. I didn’t research whether or not the trust is still in operation because I am apparently heartless when it comes to endangered 1980s children. Sorry. I watched several of those farm accident videos. Desensitized. Never rest!

Baby Finny also doesn’t care about endangered 1980s children. He is not sorry. He didn’t even watch Apaches (Thank you, Grady Hendrix, for introducing me to Apaches, my mom has the silverware they’re setting the table for the “party” with).

Anyway, all the stories were donated and I shan’t go in to all 38 of them, but here are some of the ones that struck me in particular.

Kit Reed – “Mommy” – This story is based around the question: “Where did the hundred pounds she lost go?” Kit Reed is one author I will always read. She really is a master of feminist horror. Also, she validates many of my lifestyle choices as non-horrific, despite what others might say.

James Robert Smith – “Things Not Seen” – One of the more affecting stories, super short, super impact. “Do you think they’ll like Sonny?”

Ozma likes Baby Finny. She likes not-baby Finny now too.

James Herbert – “Breakfast” – Excellent, another short punch about a woman and her family in the post-apocalypse. Images that really get into your head. Very sticky.

C. Dean Anderson – “Night Watch” – This begins with a killer squirrel. We like that around here .

Jeff Gelb – “Family Man” – A nice little take about accidentally getting a nice ghost family when you buy a new house.

Baby Finny wants a ghost family. He’s not getting one.

Gile Gordon – “A Towpath Tale” – This was one of the more disturbing things I’ve read about a man and his bitch.

Brian Lumley – “David’s Worm” – Don’t let kids go into the garbage at your lab or they’ll become one with an amorphous blob they grew. He named it “Planny.” You can’t give things names or they’ll never go away. Think of Mr. Peppy on Futurama and always remember that lesson from Hermes.

Graham Masterton – “Changeling” – This reminded me of that Angel episode that introduced me to VAST. Gender-swapping as STD is a bit more disturbing, also, now I realize that It Follows owes a heavy debt to Angel’s first season.

Non-baby Finny is still not sorry. But he is interested in more horror-focused short story collections from the 1980s.

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Climate change is making it a little harder to get frostbite in many areas. That’s not good though.

73. Frostbitten – Kelley Armstrong

Werewolves in the snow! Whee!

Elena and Clay tracking mutts in Alaska and running into the kind of criminal stuff that characters in urban fantasy stories always seem to run into no matter where they take place. I’m in the middle of nowhere – oh look! Crime! Supernaturals committing crimes! Sigh.

It’s a quick read, but does manage to expand Armstrong’s werewolves nicely with a werewolf that actually lives with wolves. It was brisk and I’m always happy to read when Armstrong focuses on Elena. She’s definitely her strongest character.

Ozma approves of fellow blonde (well, Ozma’s golden and Hershey Kiss-faced), strong character Elena as well. One day, Ozma will also fight supernatural crime.

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Krautmeyer

19. The Girls – Emma Cline

Suburban girl goes wild…still basically gets out of everything…and it’s kind of a slow stroll to get there. This was fine. It reads fine, it’s got some nice, hazy Southern California imagery, and easily invokes the Manson family and Cline does pay attention to a lot of the senses. Her writing easily allows the reader to be in the scene smell-wise – rotting lettuce, mildewy clothes, musty outbuildings, that very specific smell that screams “mice have been here” (shudder).

But, not unlike many coddled lives and other stories where a privileged person takes a walk on the other side but doesn’t stay, it’s not that interesting. Too safe. Her life almost gets fucked up by being associated with this version of the Manson family, but then it really doesn’t. She has her bad memories and a stigma that hurts her when she runs into people even more privileged than she is, and that’s realistic but I guess I don’t care about Evie the narrator because Evie doesn’t care about Evie either.

That’s right, my girls Murderface and Pickles, nothing much to read here.

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The blurb says “Dark and droll” and that’s about right.

73. Raylan – Elmore Leonard

Timothy Olyphant’s influence on the Raylan character is definitely at play in the first Raylan-focused novel published after Justified hit the screen. It’s fair – Olyphant’s Raylan is exactly who I want to picture as Raylan Givens. When reading Raylan, it’s interesting to see the differences in how Leonard deals with his characters after the show, including those who barely got much time on Justified (like Jackie Nevada), and how he deals with the changes in the timeline. It’s a good thing Justified was such a damn good show – would’ve been hard to live up to Elmore Leonard’s legacy otherwise. The saga of Dewey Crowe-take on the kidney theft storyline from this book is one of my favorite things Justified has done. Dewey fucking Crowe.

Reading about Raylan Givens is like Horace settling in to his willow bridge with a nice, comfy blanket and a friendly squirrel to lie on – comfortable, enjoyable, worth it.

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Face Your Demons – Supernatural starts now, on TNT

36. Skin of the Soul – Lisa Tuttle, ed.

This beautifully titled short story collection is subtitled “New horror stories by women” and was published by The Women’s Press, London, in 1990. It features some familiar writers like Karen Joy Fowler, Joyce Carol Oates, Tuttle herself, and Joan Aiken (who I mainly know from her Edward Gorey illustrated Wolves of Willoughby Chase and other wolf books); it also features several writers I’ve never heard of and two of those are from Texas and their stories in the anthology are some of their earliest professional publications. That’s pretty cool.

Peregrine is basically a professional model for paintings and photos. That’s also pretty cool. Muse pigs are cool.

Here are some of my thoughts about the stories that stood out to me:

Melanie Tem – “Lightning Rod” – A literally horrific exploration of that martyr complex women are societally bred to have. Oh, I’ll do this thing that hurts – No, I will! And so on and so on until someone collapses under the weight of trying to please everyone. This story was both scary and exhausting.

Suzy McKee Charnas – “Boobs” – A very fun little werewolf story.

Karen Joy Fowler – “The Night Wolf” – Different kind of wolf. Not fun.

This is as close to howling at the moon as Pere’s going to get.

Ann Walsh – “Getting Away From It All” – Very reminiscent of Jack Torrance at the bar in The Shining, except, in this story, the mom isn’t blaming everyone else for her own issues. It’s vague and surreal and also quite grounded in that “I was trying to do something nice!” feeling that can exhaust and overwhelm us.

There are quite a few pieces in this collection that really pick at parts of me and so for once I’m reviewing a horror collection that actually got under my skin. Nice work/Damn it, ladies.

Lisa Tuttle – “Mr. Elphinstone’s Hands” – So much mucus in this story. SO much. It’s slimy and sticky and evokes the shame of hyperhidrosis and living in the spiritualist times and paranoia and, well, yuck.

Peregrine knows which dead piggies she’d like to conjure with mucus hands but…no one in this house has ectoplasmic abilities. Sorry, Pere.

G.K. Sprinkle – “Serena Sees” – Quite the tense evening over the psychic lines. The anger that people use as an excuse to hurt other who haven’t actually done anything to them comes through in this story – especially the anger of an entitled dude who didn’t get what he wanted. A smile. A correct psychic prediction. A date. All resulting in some dude who thinks he has the right to hurt women.

Melissa Mia Hall – “Listening” – The earring tells her things. Things that no one will listen to…like the many times I have correctly predicted something bad happening (a broken window, for instance) that wouldn’t have happened if the persons involved had just listened to me. I don’t even have a magic earring. My ears aren’t even pierced. Still no one listens.

Anne Goring – “Hantu-Hantu” – A Barb and Nancy for 1990. Except in this story, Nancy gets the roaches. She goes after the guy, gets “chosen” in the swampy tropics, and gets the roaches. Barb…well, she still basically gets to go the Upside Down and she kinda gets the roaches too.

You just go ahead and try to give Pere the roaches. She’ll come out of the log tunnel and cut you. With her mind. Also maybe her very sharp incisors.

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“The Gift of the Magi,” it’s not, but, whatever. Be like the squirrel.

21. Darkness Visible – William Styron

One last post for the year… On a holiday that can be a really bad time for a lot of people. I generally have a hard time around Christmas, last year’s was particularly hard for me and I ended up coming back from my time at home in quite a bad place, which would not have made any sense if you saw me on my last day at work before the holiday. I was in a ridiculously good mood, also for no particular reason beyond having had one very amusing conversation the night before and getting “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk stuck in my head. I also listened to the whole of the True Story of Abner Jay that day. Vacillating back and forth between “Get Lucky” and Abner Jay doesn’t sound like a good idea on paper, but I do love a random juxtaposition and The True Story of Abner Jay is so fucking good. So good. I love that mule song, damnit. After work I drove through a solid whiteout snow storm for three hours to my original home land and I couldn’t listen to either song in the car; but, I don’t even remember what I listened to because I was concentrating so hard on not sliding off the road, or into anyone else, or losing where I was, etc. Inclement weather driving is not fun, but I have a lot of experience with it.

Anyway, I tend to feel quite lonely in places I’m not supposed to, at times I shouldn’t, and it seems like almost any time I have one really, really good day or feel actual happiness, soon after my brain thinks the other shoe’s going to drop. And it does, regardless of whether or not it really dropped. It’s like it wants to make sure I know “nothing gold can stay.” I know. I get it. So, by the time I was driving back to my current city of residence, it wasn’t possible for me to be remotely pleasant. I was definitely under the impression I was going from feeling bad to another place to feel worse with nothing to look forward to, clearly, any amusements were already completely over. Quite hopeless. And then when I got home I checked my little internet messages and got really, really, really upset, because I was trying to confirm I had nothing to look forward to and that my brain was rightly despairing. Nothing super-bleak can stay, either, it turns out, as I had one from someone I never expected and they did something I never expected in that message and additionally, they clearly wanted to see me soon. What a bastard. I made sure to mess up their hair when I drove to them immediately after letting them know I read it by calling them a bastard. They didn’t even know what they were doing – which is exactly how my depression breaks every time, some unexpected, tiny, usually absurd thing. So keep waiting it out and maybe your own grumpy metal Santa will come for you.

As for Darkness Visible, it’s another stone cold classic – and very short. I didn’t think it would be that short considering the number of times I’ve seen it mentioned in other writings about depression.

Instead of really discussing it, I’m just going to share some random chunks I related to and enjoyed or saw someone else I know in:

“…being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world.”

“…in the absence of hope we must still struggle to survive, and so we do – by the skin of our teeth.”

“…unwilling to accept its own gathering deterioration, the mind announces to its indwelling consciousness that it is the body with its perhaps correctable defects – not the precious and irreplaceable mind – that is going haywire.”

“It is a storm indeed, but a storm of murk.”

“Most people in the grip of depression at its ghastliest are, for whatever reason, in a state of unrealistic hopelessness, torn by exaggerated ills and fatal threats that bear no resemblance to actuality.”

Mini-playlist, my gift of absurd juxtaposition for you, gentle reader –

“My Mule” – Abner Jay
“Get Lucky” – Daft Punk
“Little Acorns” – White Stripes
“Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley

 

These boys “love” their sweaters.

 

All four of my Christmas pigs (Horace, Ozma, Peregrine, and Danger Crumples) and their tree.

 

Horace, Ozma, Peregrine, and Danger Crumples are sort of stuck, but, like, festively stuck.

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Not quite horror, but there are horror elements. Several. Enough.

1. Greywalker – Kat Richardson

Harper Blaine is the “Just the facts, ma’am,” type of P.I. with a supernatural edge. She really reminds me of Rhona Mitra, so if there’s ever a film version, that’s my actress suggestion. In a way, she’s quite cold as a heroine and I really liked that. A lady character doesn’t have to be overly empathetic and it’s nice to see some emotionally distant main characters who know they are emotionally distant. Her best connection is with her ferret, Chaos, and I wholly support that as a reader. The importance of pets is often overlooked. I cannot say that I wasn’t worried that Chaos would then die in the story as that tends to happen to animals that resonate, but, I’m now seven books into the series and Chaos is still going strong – her care is still specified in a sentence or two, never just overlooked for plot speed. That’s good.

This is the first in the Greywalker series and so there’s a lot of world building, but it didn’t get boring. Harper does make a lot of phone calls and does a lot of parking, though. Sometimes the logistical details can make things a bit dry, but the way Richardson writes, it seems to me that the logistics are there to settle your senses for the unrealities – which are quite easy to visualize. It’s also set in Seattle, which really works as a setting for anything with “grey” in it and mist…

Duncan comes in on little guinea pig feet. She sits- well, she’s standing here, but we’re parodying Sandburg so- she sits, looking over bedroom and beyond, on silent haunches, and then moves on.

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“Won’t you take a ride…ride…ride…On heavy metal”

Today only! Redbubble has a 20% off sale (and express shipping gets things to you by Xmas) if you use the code: GIFTNOW

And, may I add, I have added two new parody paintings to my portfolio that are available on things and stuff:

 

And

 

I saw somewhere that Porgs are based on puffins and I must call shenanigans. They look just like Pere. And she’s not a puffin. So I showed them who is boss in this parody painting, heavy metal-style.

 

Again, I have called shenanigans.

 

Finny is a pretty emo pig, he’s got a lot of emotions, and he could turn to villainy at any time.

 

See? Villain potential vs. my little valkyrie

 

I have many of my other paintings available on things and stuff too. You can have the weirdest home imaginable (next to mine, that is). My portfolio page, it’s FULL of piggy goodness.

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